Today, at Christ the King, we had our first Stewardship Sunday. This sermon is slightly shorter for that reason. The presentation/catechesis on Biblical Stewardship will be available later.
23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Too often, when we hear the summary of the Law, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself,” we see it as setting up an order of operations. First, love God; then second, love neighbor so long as it doesn’t conflict with loving God. That is the attitude the priest and the Levite had in the parable.
According the laws of Moses, they needed to protect themselves from becoming unclean. If they helped the man in the ditch, they might defile themselves by touching a dead person and not be able to do their priestly functions. They are essentially saying to themselves, “I feel bad for this poor guy. I will pray for him. But if I go over there and help him, I won’t be able to do the sacrifices or declare people clean and free from sin. And I have been called by God to be faithful in those works. So, if I go help this guy, I might become unable to do those things, I will be unfaithful to God.”
The priest and Levite were convinced that they couldn’t help their neighbor because they had a higher obligation to love God. Too often, we think the same way.
We avoid people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol because Scripture tells us to avoid the appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22), and we don’t want to tarnish our reputation as a good Christian by being around people who have vices. When people are cruel and angry because they have been absolutely broken, we avoid them because they bring out the worst in ourselves. However, we should be going out of our way to love and befriend them and earn their trust. But we don’t do that because we think we have a higher duty to God to keep ourselves righteous so we try to maintain a safe distance from people who might make us to become unrighteous and jaded.
But one of the things Jesus shows us in the parable of the Good Samaritan is this misunderstanding between loving God and loving our neighbor. This parable is a nice explanation of what we are told in 1 John 4:20 which says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Love of God and love of neighbor are never in conflict with each other. God wants us to show our love for Him by loving our neighbor.
We have called today “Stewardship Sunday,” and we have had a lot of focus on what God’s Word has to say about our tithes and offerings. And this text has something to say about our giving to the church as well. Just as loving our neighbor does not conflict with loving God, loving God does not conflict with loving our neighbor either.
I might be wrong on this, but I would venture to guess that the prevailing attitude about giving to the church is seen as fulfilling the first of the two great commandments – to love God. And very often, we think giving to the church is not seen as fulfilling the second – to love our neighbor. At least, this is a common accusation of the world against the church, and I don’t think we are immune to those accusations.
Maybe, you have seen different threads on social media that pop up from time to time which basically say, “If money is the root of all evil, why do they keep asking for it in church?” Never mind the fact that they aren’t quoting Scripture correctly. The verse (1 Tim. 6:10), says, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evils…”
But also, the world will say that Christians are hypocrites because giving to the church means they don’t care about the hungry and poor. They’ll say that Christians are so busy loving God by giving money to the church that they are refusing to love their neighbor. But there is no conflict between the two.
Scripture says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Every neighbor you come into contact with is a sinner. And what do sinners need most? Even if they are naked and starving, sinners’ greatest need to hear the Gospel. They need to hear the Word preached. They need the Sacraments. They need to be pointed to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In other words, they need the Church.
So, Christian, see what you are doing when you give to the church. You are doing exactly what the Good Samaritan did in the parable. You are providing for the continual care of those whom Christ has redeemed. Remember, the Good Samaritan gave the innkeeper money to care for the robbed man and promised to return and pay off any expenses that weren’t covered by his initial two denarii.
After the parable concluded, Jesus asked the lawyer, “Who proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”And the lawyer rightly responded, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said, “You go, and do likewise.”
Have mercy and compassion on your neighbor by making sure that they have the blessing of seeing what you see and hearing what you hear. Make sure they have a place where they can go to hear of Jesus. Where they can have their wounds bound up by Christ’s absolution. Where they can have the oil and wine of the Sacraments poured on their sinful scars. Where they can recover in the inn of the church.
Christian, you go, and do likewise. Do this, but don’t ever draw strength and assurance by how well you have loved your neighbor. Instead, draw strength to love your neighbor by how God Himself has loved and cared for you.
Because, first and foremost, the parable of the Good Samaritan is a picture of what Jesus has done for you. Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the Good Samaritan who has compassion. He left His throne in the glory of heaven to become your neighbor. He risks His own safety while scoundrels and robbers are roaming about. He stops to give you aid. He pours on you oil and wine. He gives up His own comfort and convenience to bring you to the inn of the holy Christian Church. And Jesus sets up an all-expenses-paid stay there promising to return. Jesus is the one who has and continues to show you mercy. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Additional thoughts on the text that were removed from the sermon:
You can’t do something to gain an inheritance. All Scripture shows that God’s people do not inherit eternal life by doing something. As our Epistle Text (Gal. 3:15-22) said, the inheritance of eternal life has always and will always come through the promise of God. The lawyer knew this. He knew exactly what he must do to have eternal life. Love God perfectly and love his neighbor perfectly which is exactly how Jesus Himself sums up the Law (Mt. 22:34-40). Jesus tells the lawyer, “Bingo! Do this, and you will live.”But Jesus might just as well have said, “Yup. Go to hell.”
And the lawyer gets it. He sees how he is stuck in his sin. The Law has exposed him for the wretched sinner that he is. The Law has left him scared and confused because he doesn’t know the Gospel. He wants an out and clamors for a loophole. He asks, “Well, who is my neighbor? Whom should I love?”
But every Sunday school student knows the answer. “Who is my neighbor?” Everyone. “Whom should I love?” Everyone and without fail. But Jesus doesn’t tell the parable to answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells the parable to change the question to get the answer He wants. The point of the parable is not to teach us to love everyone. Scripture teaches that all over the place but here, not in this parable.
Instead, Jesus tells the parable because He wants to show the lawyer and you hope. Jesus wants to show you what God mercifully does for you. He wants your eyes to see and your ears to hear the Gospel.